The Fuhrer Stomps His Foot. Russian Media Monitoring Report, 20-26 February 2023

Putin’s recent address to the members of parliament was all over the front pages of Russian media last week. The Russian dictator was mentioned more than 1,300 times — a new record for our monitoring reports.

Putin was praised for his eloquence despite the fact that his speech lacked meaningful content and was so long and boring that it lulled some of the officials in the audience to sleep. However, the dictator's latest self-presentation should not be treated too lightly.

Putin is still holding the whole world hostage with his nuclear threats without any meaningful victories in the conventional war. This monitoring report covers these and other topics of the disinformation spread by Russian state media and online parajournalists to manipulate public opinion.


New Coat of Paint on Russia’s Nuclear Threats

Russians continue their stubborn attempts to storm the Ukrainian fortifications in the East. Since the propagandists have nothing to boast about except the deaths of their own soldiers, the subject of fighting remains out of focus. The reports on the activities of the Russian army in Ukraine constitute approximately 5% of the entire news feed on Russian media and about 30% of the entire bulk of news on war (in general, war stories are accounting for not more than 15-16% of the total news feed which is two-fold decrease compared to last year).

Just like before, the propagandists quoted the Ministry of Defense while talking about the fighting, but they never forgot to add a fair amount of disinformation and fake news. Since the disinformation mongers focus on quantity rather than quality, their tales are often self-contradictory and illogical, but, as we mentioned before, the readers don’t seem to care. “The enemy … is in a desperate situation … All cemeteries are full, especially in the south-east. This is where most of the mobilized soldiers come from” — such were the scary tales on some media. The stories on other media, however, say quite the opposite: “many of the AFU thugs killed in action come from the west of Ukraine”.

We have also observed a spike of messages on the possibility of the war going nuclear. It was in autumn 2022 that the Russian media has a keen interest in this subject. The recent flurry of nuclear threats was based on Vladimir Putin’s statement on the suspension of Russia's participation in the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). So far Russians have kept their sabers in the scabbards and refrained from direct threats of using their nukes.

Although the respective bill was passed by the State Duma, the Deputy Foreign Ministry of Russian hurried to state that Russia would continue to abide by New START. The comments from Russian political observers lead us to believe that this blackmail is aimed at forcing the USA into signing a new treaty on the division of spheres of influence or at least shutting down the arms supplies to Ukraine: “We ought to say it straight: if the Americans want to negotiate on strategic offensive arms, they must stop arms supplies to Ukraine. However, if such supplies continue, we shall consider nuclear strikes among other options currently on the table and withdraw from further negotiations as they will become completely pointless”.

Silence! The Fuhrer Speaks!

Vladimir Putin and his state of the nation address to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation were the biggest news makers on Russian propagandist media. Putin was revered, and his words were quoted like gospel. The Russian dictator was mentioned more than 1,300 times — a new record for our monitoring reports. Even though the speech was incoherent, lengthy and boring, the propagandists still praised him to the skies. Even Putin himself acknowledged it later: “It might have been a bit difficult to process. The speech was almost two hours long. If I had had to listen to it, it would have been an exercise in patience and concentration”.

The parts where he talked about the army and navy reform really struck a chord with Russian propagandists: “Vladimir Putin said that the effective modern army and navy guarantee the security and sovereignty of our country”, “The leader of Russia promised to ensure deliveries of state-of-the-art equipment to the Russian army... According to Vladimir Putin, the Russian industry has been ramping up production of an entire spectrum of weaponry”.

The propagandists studiously ignore the obvious problems faced by the Russian army. While the mobilized Russians record videos complaining about the lack of weapons and ammunition, disinformation mongers run upbeat stories saying that “Putin has announced mass deployment of submarine and ship-launched Zircon hypersonic missiles in 2023. Furthermore, the first launchers of new Sarmat nuclear-capable missile will be put on combat duty this year. The series production of Kinzhal hypersonic aero-ballistic air-to-surface missiles is also to continue”.

Putin never forgot to mention “national traitors” in his address. This topic was immediately picked up by propagandists who used the term to humiliate all those who oppose the senseless war: “Since they cannot defeat Russia in the battlefield, their [Western] information campaigns are becoming more and more aggressive”, said the president. Putin warned that our enemies would attempt to split Russia with the help of national traitors. All those who choose this path, will be punished by law, but this will not be a witch hunt.

They also added some scare tales about Western values that “deep people” are so afraid of: “Just look at what they do to their own peoples! They have dismantled the traditional family, forfeited cultural and national identity, embraced perversion and child abuse — anything from mockery to pedophilia is their new norm. The clergy are forced to bless gay marriages”.

Disinformation mongers praised Putin's speech as the pinnacle of eloquence and claimed that the dictator’s address has the power to shift the balance of power on the geopolitical arena: “Russia's Right”: Putin sends three clear messages to the West”, “Western politicians hardly took any notice of the roses brought by their citizens in a demonstration of position — perhaps, other gifts will get their attention”. President Putin's address contained some broad hints at what such gifts might be”. Interestingly, the so-called experts who keep talking about “Putin’s hints” cannot put a finger at the exact messages and threats to the West. The boot-lickers said that “The President's message is an action plan for all of us. The words of our national leader contain the formula of our Victory”.

In order to thwart any doubts in the national leader the propagandists quoted some sociology showing overwhelming support of Putin: “Last week, the approval of the President of Russia Vladimir Putin grew 2% hitting 81%”, “The absolute majority of Russians (81%) approve of the activities of the Russian President Vladimir Putin and believe that the president is performing his duties well”. They contrasted him against other leaders whose approval rate did not look as convincing: “Joe Biden: 41% approve, 51% disapprove. — Justin Trudeau: 38% approve, 56% disapprove. — Olaf Scholz: 34% approve, 60% disapprove.

Putin’s address covered a range of topics which being tracked on our “Disinformation about the War in Ukraine” dashboard. Putin raved on about the “atrocities of the Ukrainian neo-Nazi” and threw a dazzling medley of anti-Western narratives. The subject of economy also wasn't untouched: after reporting on record-breaking grain harvests Putin said that the sanctions are in no way affecting the well-being of Russian people. Just as you would expect from typical Russian media, all those claims contained premium-grade conspirology such as references to the notorious “biolabs”, satanists and evil gender rights activists.


Waiting for the West to Split

Without any signs of Ukraine’s military defeat in sight, the propagandists once again predicted that the West would soon stop supporting Ukraine being their idea of success. Their predictions were based on the claims that the Western alliance is starting to fall apart: “The West is going all in, but it has no Plan B... There is no clear vision of what the victory could look like. These gnawing doubts are causing disagreements among Western elites. Now that they are stuck in trench warfare, the victory may just as well be Pyrric. Some even ask if a victory is possible at all”.

The propagandists ran more stories about the alleged protests of “common Americans” against the policy of supporting Ukraine to prove their point that Ukraine is soon bound to lose its Western support: “More and more American citizens agree that Washington must cut down the expenditure on the Kyiv regime”, “the Ukrainian war is a not a matter of principle for Americans”, “Interestingly, both Republicans and Democrats disapprove of the policy of the current administration”, “Ukraine is rapidly losing the support of the general public in the USA. When this trend shapes Washington's new policy, the Kyiv regime is doomed”.

The alternative reality in Germany is equally grim: “German citizens took to the streets in a mass protest against the Munich conference following an earlier mass protest in Berlin against the arms supplies to Ukraine approved by the German government.. Some 25,000 people took part in the demonstrations”. The Italians followed suite: “On 25 February, a rally was held in Rome against the sending of Italian weapons to Kyiv and the anti-Russian sanctions. About a hundred people gathered to protest in Piazza Santi Apostoli in the center of Rome”.

The propagandists claimed that the West is only using Ukraine as a tool to restrain Russia: “They are willing to sacrifice an entire people and a country to bend Russia to their will. Since they prefer fighting, they keep pushing Ukraine into continuing the hostilities”. The disinformation media kept reiterating that the West had bitten more than it could chew and would inevitably collapse from a conflict with Russia: “The West keeps losing its illusions”, “The West is headed towards imminent self-destruction”, “The era of the West's parasitic exploitation of our natural resources is coming to an end. This is all their doing. This is why they are so mad. Their carefree life is over”.

More trends of Russian disinfo - find in our interactive dashboard "WARTIME DISINFO FROM RUSSIA"

The Methodology

We have built a comprehensive corpus of all the materials from Russian websites and those maintained by the occupation force (approximately 34,000 news items) for our weekly disinformation monitoring report. Each paragraph was processed by the algorithm which defines its topic automatically. The resulting topics (i.e. groups with similar content) were short-listed by the topics relating to the war or its consequences for Russia. The number of mentions of a certain topic was then counted for each publication. Our conclusions are based on the respective findings and contain quotes from paragraphs referring to each topic.

We used materials from lenta.ru, tass.ru, riafan.ru, russian.rt.com, regnum.ru, iz.ru, life.ru, trmzk.ru, vz.ru, donbasstoday.ru, novosibirsk-news.net, ura.news, newizv.ru, news-front.info, aif.ru, slovodel.com, nakanune.ru, kommersant.ru, ruinformer.com, rosbalt.ru, polit.info, sevastopol.su, ng.ru, expert.ru, dni.ru, kafanews.com, antifashist.com, dnr-pravda.ru, naspravdi.info, kerch.fm, anna-news.info, dan-news.info, tehnowar.ru, aurora.network, gorlovka-pravda.com, lugansk1.info, c-inform.info, 3652.ru, politnavigator.net, rusdnepr.ru, politobzor.net, doneck-news.com, mir-lug.info, odnarodyna.org, vsednr.ru, nefakt.info, novosti.icu, time-news.net, xvesti.ru, comitet.su, sobytiya.info, denis-pushilin.ru, dnr24.com, meridian.in.ua.


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